Is there a magic phrase for giving critical feedback to boost effort, achievement and trust?

Is there a magic phrase for giving critical feedback to boost effort, achievement and trust?

By Luke McKenna


Research from a team of psychologists published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that there is one phrase which resulted in a 40 percent boost in student rework among white students and a 320 percent boost among black students. Furthermore it improved the quality of final drafts and also increased trust between students and their teachers.


What's the magic phrase? Before offering critical feedback to students, try starting with this phrase...

I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.


Daniel Coyle (author of "The Talent Code") points out in his blog:

Looking closer, the phrase contains several distinct signals:

1) You are part of this group.

2) This group is special; we have higher standards here.

3) I believe you can reach those standards.


Kathy Dyer adds…when we receive an authentic, crystal-clear signal of social trust, belonging, and high expectations, the floodgates click open.


While praise should be issued through the lens of the growth mindset (focus on the effort or the process, rather than the innate abilities or the person), when we provide critical feedback to students about their work, it can be preceded with this comment for maximum effect.


The research also found that it is possible to create a culture whereby students attribute critical feedback in school to their teachers’ high standards and belief in their potential. This would create a learning environment where real, honest, constructive, specific, process focussed feedback could be issued to students and it would be seen by students as helpful feedback for their intellectual development.


**If you are in a South East Queensland Secondary School, don't forget to send a small team to our upcoming Professional Development Days. Early Bird rates for our Gold Coast event are closing at midnight next Tuesday 22/3. Find out more now.**